Why has India announced free COVID-19 booster dose for all adults? This data may hold the answer

The Union government on Wednesday announced free administration of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for all adults in the age group of 18-59, starting July 15 (Friday) for the next 75 days.

According to the Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur, the vaccination drive is a part of the government’s Azadi ka Amrit Kaal celebrations.

“India is celebrating 75 years of Independence. On the occasion of Azadi ka Amrit Kaal, it has been decided that from July 15, 2022, till the next 75 days, citizens above 18 years of age will be given booster doses free of cost. This facility will be available at all government centres,” he said.

Furthermore, the initiative aims to enhance and boost India’s fight against the SARs-CoV-2 virus and adds another layer of safety.

However, the recent development in India’s vaccination programme comes at a time when the Union health ministry revealed shocking data which says that nearly 594 million adults in India are now “late” for their so-called precaution shots. Let us find out more about the report.


92% Indians ‘late’ for their precautionary dose, data reveals

As per the data provided by the Union health ministry, a shocking 92 percent Indians, who are currently eligible for the precautionary dose, have not yet received their third COVID-19 vaccine dose.
To be precise, nearly 594 million adults in India are now “late” for their booster shots, data reveals.
Experts believe that the staggering figures may have given light to the recent decision on a 75-day free COVID vaccination window.
An official source told PTI that less than 1 per cent of the target population of 77 crore in the 18-59 age group have been administered the precaution dose.
“A majority of the Indian population got their second dose over nine months ago. Studies at ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) and other international research institutions have suggested that antibody levels wane around six months after the primary vaccination with both doses… giving a booster increases the immune response,” the official said.
“The government is therefore planning to start a special drive for 75 days during which individuals aged between 18 and 59 years will be administered precaution doses for free at government vaccination centres starting from July 15,” he added.
India also reduced gap for COVID booster shots from 9 to 6 months
On July 6, 2022, the Union health ministry also reduced the duration between the second dose and the precautionary third dose of the COVID0-19 vaccine from nine months to six months.
Union Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to all state heads saying that the revised guidelines were based on the recommendation made by the the Standing Technical Sub-Committee (STSC) of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI).
“Therefore, it has been decided that the precaution dose for all beneficiaries from 18-59 years will be administered after completion of six months, or 26 weeks from the date of administration of the second dose at a private vaccination centre,” the letter read.

Why you should get your booster shot now

Besides the perks of a cost-free vaccination, currently, COVID-19 vaccines are our best protection against the virus. Although cases have gone down and infections have become milder, immunity from the first and second doses may wane over time, which is why another dose may help boost the immune response.

Furthermore, with the new Omicron variant and its subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 gaining more ground, booster shots are our safest bet.


Who is eligible for the 75-day cost-free vaccination?

All adults in the 18-59 age group will be eligible to be vaccinated with the COVID vaccine booster doses free of cost from July 15.

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